Sandra Freeman of Engagio Explains How to Avoid the ABM Upside Down World #B2BSMX

Sandra Freeman at B2BSMX in Boston

In the universe of Stranger Things, a widely beloved sci-fi horror series that debuted its third season on Netflix last month, avoiding the Upside Down is paramount. This dark and mysterious alternate dimension is filled with predatory creatures and unknown terrors of all sorts.

In the universe of account-based marketing (ABM), there is an equivalent to the Upside Down – according to Engagio’s Sandra Freeman, who gave a spirited Stranger Things-flavored REVTalk on Monday afternoon at the B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange (B2BSMX) in Boston.

“Our Upside Down is not knowing how our accounts are doing, and our sales reps not knowing what’s happening with our ABM program,” she said. “It’s that lack of visibility.”

Indeed, many an organization has crossed the rift into this disconnected realm, wreaking havoc on results and casting doubt upon the merits of an account-based approach. Fortunately, we have Sandra to guide us, drawing from her expertise as head of strategic marketing for the ABM automation platform Engagio.

As noted in our earlier liveblog on Sangram Vajre’s ABM is B2B session, account-based marketing is everywhere. It’s wildly popular in the world of B2B marketing, just as Stranger Things is wildly popular in the world of streaming entertainment, making Sandra’s theme an appropriate one.

Here are her five tips for staying clear of the Upside Down.

5 ABM Practices to Avoid the Upside Down

1. Enhance Your Superpower

In Stranger Things, Eleven keeps demogorgons and evil-doers at bay with her supernatural psychokinetic powers. Without her, the gang would be lost. 

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Marketers and salespeople contributing to an ABM strategy all bring their own special abilities to the table, whether it’s creativity, leadership, communication, or otherwise. Sandra suggests we power up by adding “data-driven” in front of our primary skills, to ensure we’re maximizing our impact. Understanding and analyzing what’s happening at every stage of an ABM funnel is essential to maintaining a steady flow of results. This data-driven mindset is how we vigilantly spot snags or deficiencies.

Know your funnel, know your program impact. @SandraKFreeman on #ABM Click To Tweet

2. Focus on One Big Thing

The Mind Flayer is a monstrous towering entity that reigns over the Upside Down, wielding control over an army of underlings as it seeks to invade the humble town of Hawkins.

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Only by turning their collective attention toward stopping the Mind Flayer are the heroes of Stranger Things able to derail its nefarious plot. They can’t be distracted by Russian agents, or Flayed civilians, or teenage drama (at least, not for too long). 

In an ABM program, or any marketing program, it can be tempting to try and optimize 20 different things at any given time, but ultimately this strains our resources and causes progress to falter. Sandra recommends we pick our battles, focusing on accomplishing one thing at a time and doing it really well.

“What is the one thing you wanna work on?” she asks. “What’s the one area you can make a difference?”

3. Over-communicate

Tight coordination is crucial for a cross-functional endeavor like account-based marketing. In her experience, Sandra says she frequently encounters the Venus-versus-Mars communication barrier between marketing and sales professionals, who come from different worlds and often employ different styles.

“Sales reps have different ways of talking, learning, and absorbing things,” she explains. “Find out how your reps like to communicate and do it that way.” 

She calls out a tip she picked up along the way: seven times, seven ways. This means delivering important messages seven times, each through a different channel (Slack, email, phone, in-person, etc.), to ensure it is received. Don’t be afraid to get creative, like Will Byers who gets trapped in the Upside Down and communicates with his mother through Christmas lights.

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4. Work Together!

“If we’re both going crazy, then we’ll go crazy together, right?” 

Through good and bad, the characters of Stranger Things stay strong and maintain their kinships. Mike and Will. Dusty and Steve. Hopper and Joyce. These collaborative partnerships are the driving force in the story. 

A successful ABM strategy requires getting and keeping everyone on the same page. This is of course easier said than done in a hectic agency or brand marketing department, where juggling multiple initiatives simultaneously is routine. To stay aligned, Sandra advocates for the ABM standup – an Agile-inspired routine that involves bringing together every sales development rep, marketer, and customer success manager together for a quick huddle once every two weeks to discuss the most highly prioritized accounts, and lay out a game plan for moving them forward, with specific tasks assigned to each party. 

Engagio CEO Jon Miller has credited Sandra for pioneering the adoption of this practice at their company.

5. Share Success

Nothing reinforces a behavior like seeing it get results, and – even more so – seeing the people behind those results recognized. We see this first-hand at TopRank Marketing, where we hold quarterly closeouts and celebrate our biggest wins, crediting team members who went out of their way to delight clients, and sharing our learnings so we can replicate positive outcomes.

This is especially important for an ABM effort, where so many different roles and disciplines are involved. Given the variance in backgrounds, it can be challenging for a salesperson to understand the sometimes subtle actions a marketer took to help move a deal forward, and vice versa. As such, celebrating success and acknowledging the distinct contributors who made it happen is very valuable.

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Defeat the Evils of Misalignment and Win with ABM

If anything has been made clear at B2BSMX this year, it’s that account-based marketing is here to stay. With its message of defeating any challenge through teamwork and cooperation, Stranger Things presents a perfect allegory for this increasingly present strategic framework. 

Oh, and as a parting message for fans of the show, Sandra had this to say: “I have hope for Hopper.” If you don’t know what she’s talking about, you’d better get caught up on Season 3.

By the way, if you’re a big Stranger Things fan and you’ll be at Digital Summit in Minneapolis this week, you’re in luck! Our own Ashley Zeckman will be giving her own spin on the theme for an influencer marketing session on Wednesday, August 14th at 4:00 PM. Make sure to check it out!

And of course, stay tuned for more live coverage of #B2BSMX Boston here on the TopRank Marketing Blog. In addition, follow along in real-time on Twitter at @NickNelsonMN and @leeodden.

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